45 RPM (Recollections Per Minute)

Chapter 4

Phil Spector

 

“Morrell! Pack your bags and get to LA! We’re going over to meet Phil Spector and hear some new music.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This was sensational news! “Be My Baby,” by the Ronettes was one of my first 45’s and Phil produced it with his famous “wall of sound.”

John Lennon had just released his “Rock ‘n’ Roll” album and Phil had produced some of the tracks. I was hoping to talk to him about the sessions and if there were any songs that weren’t released or some jam sessions that may have taken place. I was getting excited to meet him in person. I was thinking about the “Let It Be” album he produced. I wanted to ask him about those Beatle tapes. Did he listen to everything the Beatles put on tape? My mind was spinning!

Phil signed a deal with WB Records to put music out and I was the NYC promotion man. I knew he’d identify with me and we’d get along great. But sometimes things don’t work out that way.

For example, Sonny Bono was a promo man for Phil, and one time, in December 1964, he took Phil’s newest single, “Walkin’ in the Rain” by the Ronettes, to the hot Top 40 station in Los Angeles. The DJ he played it for was less than enthusiastic and even grimaced. Then he said, “It sounds kinda tired.”

Sonny left the station to call Phil and give him the news. Phil picked up the phone and asked, “Am I making money?” Sonny told him they weren’t going to add it right away.

“It didn’t get on this week,” Sonny said.

There was silence on Phil’s end of the call.

Sonny was a goner.

Phil’s first two songs for the new deal at WB flopped. One was by Cher called “A Woman’s Story,” and the other, “Dance, Dance, Dance,” was by a band called Calhoon.

I didn’t realize Phil just might be in a bad mood when we met him.

My boss at WB took a few members the staff over to meet Phil in the recording studio. We all walked in and Phil was standing there with his bodyguard. Later they told me he had a bodyguard to make sure he didn’t hurt himself!

Rather than being polite and welcoming, Phil went on a rant. He started screaming that we couldn’t get Beatle records played in Liverpool. That none of us were any good. He said the Cher record was a hit that we blew. It was actually a stinker that never charted in the Billboard Hot 100.

After what seemed like forever yelling at us, my boss finally had enough. He took control.

“Hey Phil!” he barked. “Play the new music we came to hear or we’re leaving!”

Phil would have nobody talk down to him so he bellowed, “I’m not done! I wanna know what’s happening with my records. I’m not playing anything ‘til I get some answers!”

Phil was losing it. I was confused. I wanted a do over. I wanted to shake his hand and talk for a while and then play some cool music.

My boss couldn’t take it any longer. He shouted, “Phil! You got 30 seconds to hit the play button or we’re gone.”

Phil look bothered. He stated flailing his arms and refused to hit the play button.

My boss said, “That’s it! Lets go!”

We all got behind my boss and single filed our way out of there.

I never did meet Phil, or shake his hand, but I did get an unexpected letter from him that included a button that had his famous saying, BACK TO MONO. The letter made me laugh. I had no idea why he sent it to me. It was dated March 19, 1975 and it read:

Dear Dave,

I’d like to thank you for all that you’ve done on behalf of Warner/Spector product.

Warmest personal regards,

Phil Spector

I thought maybe one day Phil would come to NY and stop by the office, but that never happened. In fact, nothing ever happened at Warner/Spector.

Something so right just turned out so wrong. Phil never had a hit while with WB.

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